Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, whose team won three Super Bowls in seven appearances during his tenure, died Thursday night in Englewood, Colorado.
Bowlen was 75 and had been battling Alzheimer’s disease since 2014. In February, Bowlen was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as as a contributor. He will be enshrined posthumously on Aug. 3.
“We are saddened to inform everyone that our beloved husband and father, Pat Bowlen, passed on to the next chapter of his life late Thursday night peacefully at home surrounded by family,” the Bowlen family said in a statement on the Broncos website. “His soul will live on through the Broncos, the city of Denver and all of our fans.
“Our family wishes to express its sincere gratitude for the outpouring of support we have received in recent years. Heaven got a little bit more orange and blue tonight.”
Bowlen bought the Broncos in 1984 and left his mark on Denver and the NFL. He was chairman of the owners’ broadcast committee when the NFL expanded its broadcast schedule to include “Sunday Night Football” in 2006, the New York Times noted. He also encouraged Fox to bid for Sunday afternoon games.
“My family and I are saddened by the loss of Pat Bowlen, and our hearts are with the Bowlen family and the entire Denver Broncos organization during this difficult time,” Chiefs owner and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement. “A tremendous competitor, Pat built a culture of success in Denver, and his leadership turned the Broncos into one of the model franchises in the National Football League. As Chairman of the Broadcast Committee, Pat helped expand the audience for America’s Game and prepare our league for a changing media landscape.
“Beyond the strong passion he had for his football team, he cared deeply about his community, and he left an indelible mark on his beloved city of Denver. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Annabel, his children and the entire Broncos family.”
Bowlen was born on Feb. 18, 1944, in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he was a receiver on the freshman football team and later earned degrees in business and law.
After working in oil, gas and real estate in Canada, he purchased the Denver Broncos in 1984. That came after failing to buy the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, and reportedly offers to buy the San Diego Chargers and the Cowboys, the Times noted.
Bowlen was a visible figure on the sidelines at Broncos game and was at Arrowhead Stadium in 1998 when Denver beat the Chiefs 14-10 in an AFC divisional playoff game. The Broncos would win the first of their three Super Bowls just weeks later.
“Pat Bowlen was driven by the will to succeed and his competitive spirit made him a great leader,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tweeted. “We all will greatly miss him and his kindness, passion and wisdom. Pat had a deep love for the game of football, the Broncos and the City of Denver.”
Bowlen, while battling Alzheimer’s disease, turned over control of the Broncos to a family trust in 2014, the Washington Post noted.
Although Bowlen wasn’t on hand for the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 victory, general manager John Elway said after getting the Lombardi Trophy: “This one’s for Pat!”
Tributes to Bowlen came from around the NFL: